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Never Let Me Go (2010)
This science fiction-based film is drawn from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day). The action revolves around Kathy (Carey Mulligan), who reflects on her time spent at Hailsham, a unique/odd English boarding school, along with close classmates Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). Though it takes time to figure out, the viewer eventually realizes that Hailsham is a secluded school for cloned human children who are being raised with no higher purpose in life than to donate their organs to a populace from which they are isolated. From the viewer's perspective, the group of children are shown to be every bit as human as ourselves.
Kathy and Tommy seem to grow a natural bond, which is intruded upon by Ruth whose more aggressive style usurps Tommy away from Kathy. This love triangle provides a back-drop for the moral criminality of a society that has established a system in which the youngsters-to-adults are allowed to flourish within the confines of their constrained, indoctrinated world. From their earliest upbringing, they are indirectly taught that they are nothing more than organ donors -- who (at best) might lend three to four organs before their termination points. The one teacher who is brave enough to lay it all out for them is summarily dismissed from the school.
Pained by her exclusion from Tommy, Kathy decides to become a carer -- someone who helps donor recipients in their hospital beds -- while Tommy and Ruth merely go on to fulfill their destinies as donors. Ruth is the first we see to go under the process of organ harvesting. At this point she has already broken off from Tommy. For a short period afterward, Kathy and Tommy finally consummate their natural bond and attempt to apply for a delay in their donor destinies -- only to discover that the rumor of any postponement is just that.
Kathy is witness to Tommy's third transplant operation, which he doesn't survive. Left alone, and with her own schedule of donations about to begin, she starts to wonder about the difference (if any) between the donors and their recipients. The viewer realizes that there is none -- that the cloned beings are equally as human and the entire process is an abomination.
The weak point in this morality fable is in the viewer accepting the docility of the cloned humans. Since they are in every respect human beings, is it possible to accept that they would merely acquiesce to their fate without resistance? For Ishiguro, the answer is yes. But, I wondered if this is accurate. Even with a stringent upbringing, could human beings be reduced to a point where they accept themselves as mere donors? My own thoughts are that all human beings are imbued with a sense of self survival and, therefore, would not march unhappily into a fate that they had any chance of circumventing. Ishiguro's story seems flawed (in my estimation) because he wants us to accept that cloned human beings can be just like us but raised to accept their own early termination.
For me, this is as if he were saying cloned humans can be just like us but might lack the spirit of self-preservation, which seems antithetical to his entire premise. I don't think you can have it both ways. Artistically, you cannot draw duplicates of ourselves without including an instinctive sense of self-preservation. The instinct for self-preservation would render the entire program enviable because the donors would be collectively too difficult to handle and control.
As a film the pacing is exceedingly slow. This is not compensated with rich imagery (such as in a Terrence Malick film). The performances are just okay. Even Keira Knightley's performance (as Ruth) seems oblique and uninspired. Many (if not most) of the scenes are over-long and tedious.
I'm unable to recommend the film except to those who may find the subject matter itself somehow enthralling.